You must stop reminiscing at every date.

My wonderful father, at age 76, has won a poetry prize.

Here is the winning poem: “You Must Stop Reminiscing at Every Date,” about my mother. By Donald E. Byrne Jr., published in Red Clay Review, November 2017. Posted with permission.

Read it aloud.

~

We do the annual calendar together:
I read from the little datebook you have kept,
you copy laboriously with magic marker
names and years of births, anniversaries, deaths,

under numbers you can barely see. Each year
our children are born, baptized, confirmed, receive
first penance and first holy communion. Each year
my parents are born, and die. Your friend, Marydee,

her husband Frank, and daughter Julie
die each year of carbon monoxide; Lisa survives,
and is married. Carl dies, a suicide.
We move to Pennsylvania again, and buy

this house. I get my Ph.d. You have
the tumor removed from your brain and lose your sight.
I become impatient; this is too slow! After
two hours we are only in June. We come to the night

you meet an old flame for drinks; you tell him I am
your only true love – cruelly, you think. Exasperated,
I say, “I’m glad, but if we’re to finish sometime
soon, you must stop reminiscing at every date!”

You look up, wounded, and zip your lips with your thumb
and finger, like a child admonished in school.
But by the end of July you are born again, and dumb
no more; what happened once, happens again — too

much history, compressed already into a year,
to squeeze into an hour. “There are getting to be
more deaths than births,” you say sadly in September.
You linger for our lives’ sakes; I want to hurry

past the certainty this book of days
will forget the last of our deaths — and then will be more,
and less, than even the children who rise from its pages
can remember, without your blind and patient story.

~

 

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61 Comments on “You must stop reminiscing at every date.”

  1. De Minimis says:

    Well deserved, that is an amazing poem.

  2. robertdircks says:

    Bravo to your father! It’s wonderful!

  3. jodhansen says:

    Lovely poem. Thank you for sharing it. Congratulations to your father.

  4. Pangolin says:

    That was a beautiful gut punch. All the feels.

  5. Neil says:

    Wow, timing. My mum passed away yesterday. There is a calendar on her kitchen wall full of all the deaths and births and driving tests passed. Each year it was copied out anew and the year counts incremented. I feel a sense of duty to continue, and a strong desire not to, to just forget and let the record stop when she did. There is already a year of painful anniversaries waiting for those of us that are left. Can I choose how much of the past to keep carrying forward? I think I need to travel light for the journey ahead. Please thank your Dad for a beautiful poem.

  6. Dawn says:

    Outstanding, truly.

  7. dawnwolfefreelancewriter says:

    This is outstanding!

  8. What a testimony to your father’s love and devotion to your mother!
    Congrats and may your mentor be your inspiration for love, life and sharing with others through your gift to the world.

  9. Lindi Roze says:

    Beautiful! The story is all to familiar.

  10. anie says:

    wonderful poem…its important to let go and forget some things otherwise life will just become more and more sad!

  11. […] You must stop reminiscing at every date. — Read on monicacatherine.com/2018/02/12/you-must-stop-reminiscing-at-every-date/ […]

  12. kvsie says:

    I love this!

  13. Reblogged this on theherdlesswitch and commented:
    This stirred me, very beautiful poem!

  14. WOW, I’m blown away! It’s wonderful. The concept is relevant and true – but never considered. Well conceived and very beautifully written. I so appreciate a memorable piece and this poem’s emotion, topic and tempo will linger. Thank you for sharing, I consider myself fortunate to have read it.

  15. Thanks for sharing this poem,I enjoyed the contrast of his hurrying and her patience at lingering over each life event.

  16. Congrats for your father! That’s really an awesome poem!

  17. No wonder your Dad won that poetry prize! This piece is priceless. Thank you! And tell him a fellow poet (me) said so.

  18. Emily Kitsch says:

    Congratulations to your father – he truly deserved the poetry prize and I’m glad he won it! This poem really touched me and actually made me cry. I lost my mom a number of years ago to cancer as well. I wish I could wrap both you and your father in a hug. ❤

  19. sudeshnarana says:

    Your father’s love for your mother makes me believe in true love again.

  20. This poem reveals the delicate balance between honoring past lives and moving forward toward new life.

  21. Reblogged this on BLUE SUN by Azuree Soleil and commented:
    This post by Monica Byrne “shares a winning poem that her father, Donald E. Byrne Jr., wrote about her mother. It was originally published at Red Clay Review.”

    The poem “You Must Stop Reminiscing at Every Date” blew me away! Not only because it is very beautifully written, but because it is so deep. It sparks a lot of thought, even debate, on the pros and cons of the process and practice of conscious, deliberate and planned remembering of the events, joy’s and pains that we have experienced.

    I was thinking, just the other day, that I should write some of these memories down ‘again’. I have written them down before but over time they get misplaced, lost, left behind, and now digital – so, obliterated. They get harder and harder to remember. And no one else knows, or cares, maybe will never care. So, the questions of “if”, “why” “what”, “how” and “where” all need answers.

    My son called the other day. While cleaning out the home and life I left with my ex, now two and a half years ago, daughter-in-law found my little Hallmark calendar from the year of my son’s birth. They had lovingly and with great joy gone through it page by page, delighting at my entries.

    When I was very young I kept a diary but the thought of someone else reading it made me censor it so completely that my entries were void of the reasons one keeps a diary. And I always found it troubling to imagine what would come of my written secrets when I inevitably stepped from this realm into the next. So, I began keeping a calendar instead and leaving most of the real memories in my head.

    There are pros and cons at the heart of this issue. Is the process and practice of writing, remembering, celebrating, mourning, reliving the trauma – all on some bizarre “to do” list of a calendar an invaluable asset for our feeble minds, a necessary telling for posterity, a useful and therapeutic walk of joys and sorrows, an example of excessively hanging onto our past, or even a somewhat absurd or morbid practice to exercise our emotions?

    This poem is relevant and so true, but the issue is one I never really considered so deeply nor from the poet’s perspective. The concept is well conceived, clearly stated, and very beautifully written. I appreciate a memorable piece and this poem’s emotion, tempo and topic will linger.

    I consider myself fortunate to have read it and I will remember it. But I am also left to consider it’s thought provoking premise and to grapple with the pros and cons of this habit of continual reminiscence. In the end I think some remembering has purpose, but we must all make every effort, regardless of the season of our lives, not to spend our days reliving the past but to FACE FORWARD… they say that is the reason why the windshield is so big, and the rearview mirror is so small – so we can focus most on where we are going and less on where we have been.

  22. Wow, what beautiful words put to something that people just don’t do anymore! I loved it; my father is 95 and still goes carries this forward every year. I haven’t looked at his in a while, I plan to next time I’m home in MI. Thank you for sharing that….and congratulations on the award.

  23. brielleh says:

    This was a truly beautiful read. Congratulations to your father!

  24. Molly says:

    So beautiful. Reminded me of my mom and the way she transfers everything to a new calendar once a year. Someone has to keep track of all the history, burdens, and births.

  25. Rosereeta says:

    Wow! That was really sweet. Your dad is an amazing poet.

  26. I really love this.

  27. Cate says:

    Just beautiful. Thank you for sharing, and kudos to your poet of a father!

  28. dourdan says:

    inspiring, with a unique sense of emotion that comes with life experience.

  29. This reminded of an old woman I met who would carefully keep track of people and families in her dairy. This was great, thank you for sharing this

  30. Very powerful. Thanks for sharing.

  31. Dejar tu huella y seguir adelante, con las huellas que dejaron para ti.

  32. […] via You must stop reminiscing at every date. — monica byrne […]

  33. I loved this piece. So original and beautiful. Even the title conveys so much.

  34. 1artlew says:

    Really awesome…

  35. avesha17 says:

    This was beautiful, and brought me back to my father, who is 85 and his calendar. He still sends our entire family, whoever still remains, a card for their birthday. Its a nice gesture and one that our family will always remember. Maybe I should take on that tradition when he passes. I will ask for his calendar. Thank you.

  36. K.M. Sutton says:

    This is SO sweet! Congrats to your Father! ❤

  37. So special in many ways. The range — from detail to universal wonders — is brilliantly handled, deft and deep. Wow.

  38. Tarachand Sevani says:

    Nice!Congrats to your Father!

  39. mrtoofunny says:

    So Touching
    This is irreplaceable

  40. j2w7 says:

    ☆☆☆☆👍🏆-JW

  41. emmmm says:

    Best wishes for a hundred years

  42. your dad has a lot of feeling into this poem about life and the just the weight of it. kudos!

  43. Christina says:

    That’s amazing work, such talent!

  44. hamaraabhay says:

    That really cool

  45. kaushik ar says:

    This is beautiful

  46. Amazing! I was just telling myself the same thing the other day. Anniversaries of hurtful times need to be released. No sense in holding a special placeholder for them every year to relive the memories. ❤️ Tell your Dad his poem is loved!


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